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January 18, 2013 |

What is Malbec and Why Does Everyone Love It?

When I think about Talley Vineyards, the grapes that come to mind are of course, pinot noir and chardonnay. When I think about the tasting room, however, I think about a diversity of palates. It is precisely for these palates that we continually produce unique wines. Some of these wines only get produced in one great vintage, such as the West Rincon Pinot Noir or the Ranchita Canyon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Others we continue to produce annually, like our petite sirah. In the most recent vintages, however, we have most definitely taken a liking to the lovely malbec.

In the wine-drinking world, passion for malbec is a recent trend. Malbec originates from France and is one of the five permitted varietals of Bordeaux, though it is certainly not the star there and considered a minor blending component. Most of us, however, think of Argentina when we think of Malbec – probably because you can still get a nice bottle for a relatively inexpensive price. Malbec was brought into Argentina in the mid 1800’s, but it was not until the 1990’s that the wine producers of Argentina decided that it would be their key varietal.  Malbec, according to our winemaker Eric Johnson, is “an awesome grape because it varies heavily based on where it is grown – it can be tannic, soft, fruity, or spicy, or it can be all of that wrapped up into one wine.” I think that the reason why many people love it here, however, is that it often tends towards ripe, juicy aromas and flavors (think ripe blueberry, blackberry, and plums), soft tannins, and moderate acidity. Assistant winemaker Nicole Pope really enjoys the varietal because “it has a distinct fruit profile from all of the other reds we work with, with awesome fresh berry aromas -  even during fermentation.”  While still not widely planted here on the Central Coast, Malbec is a perfect fit in Paso Robles. The fresh, ripe fruit develops during the warm, sunny days, and the cool evenings preserves the acidity that balances the wine.

Here in the tasting room, we now have two delicious wines that feature malbec. The first, our 2010 Bishop’s Peak Malbec, is our first 100% varietal malbec in over fifteen years! This wine is packed with fresh berry characteristics and has soft, elegant tannins resulting from over 20 months in the barrel. The second is our current wine on tap offering which is a 2011 blend of 60% malbec and 40% cabernet sauvignon. This wine, with less time in the barrel, really showcases the ripe fruit of the malbec and compliments it with the peppery spice of the cabernet sauvignon. Come try them side by side!

Maybe it turns out that you’ve read this entire blog and disagree with me because you actually don’t like malbec, and that’s ok! I urge you, however, to stop by the tasting room and give ours a try – after all, there are a lot of other wines here to enjoy as well!

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